Steven Brokaw Photography

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Although I don’t have a single tattoo I’ve always liked the more artistic work I see on some people’s bodies. As a creative type guy I respect the craft, color & form. I just don’t have the guts to get one myself. Anyway, I thought it would be a good theme for a photoshoot, so may I introduce to you the first part of my 2 shoot series focusing on models with tattoos.

I put a call out for a model that had a minimum of a sleeve (full or partial), back work and tattoos on their legs. Model Annie Patrick Vowell and I hooked up. She was perfect. I described what I wanted to capture, making sure she would know there would be a bit of skin and she agreed. I was going form more of a gritty / industrial vibe so I organized the shoot in the industrial side of the building where M10 Studio is located.

To minimize setup time on the day of the shoot I scouted locations in the complex the night before. I picked about 10 locations and on shoot day settled for 3.


On the day of the shoot Annie arrived on time and we set off. Since the focus was on the body art, I didn’t think we would need a MUA / stylist. Anyway, Annie said she would handle this herself, so this saved about 45 minutes. I had put all of my camera gear, lighting, extension cords, softboxes, etc. on our studio’s rolling cart which made things so much easier to tote around.

We started in a room which used to be an old garage for the first shoot location. The walls are grungy, the space just had a well past it’s used by date vibe. I set up a single Elinchrom D-Lite 4 strobe with a Vagabond softbox as the key light. I used a large silver reflector as a fill light. Most of the shots were set at f/5.6 minimum aperture in order to get a sufficient level of out of focus background. Shutter speed in the 125 or higher range. We spent about 30 minutes in this space placing Annie near an open circuit breaker box & against an oil stained wall.

We then went over to an area that had about 25 large boxes (gaylords) filled with assorted things. It made for a natural backdrop. Again I used a single Elinchrom D-Lite on a Manfrotto boom arm stand. For this series I kept the strobe approximately a minimum of 6 feet away from the model. The goal was to get harder light and not to conflict with the lights coming in from the industrial old school windows. We had to play with the lighting a good deal to get the right blend.

In this space I posed Annie in a number of positions both standing and sitting. There was some fun writing on the boxes so I wanted to capture this as well. In this series I essentially photographed Annie’s total tattoo gallery (except her back pieces). Since this was the first time working on a tattoo themed shoot I wasn’t really sure what poses would work the best to capture both the model and her tattoos. Took a bit of experimentation.

For the final location I move Annie to a set of painted over windows. Same lighting setup, except this section of the building is darker so I adjusted my lights and camera settings as indicate by my light meter. Since I wanted to photograph Annie’s back and side pieces this session was topless (Annie, not me). Tasteful of course using hand and arm placement. I was able to get several very nice shots of her back work and the large tattoos on her side. I did have to move the lighting around a fair amount to soften up the light, and avoid shadows falling over the tattoos.

Overall, I was happy with the result. I was very impressed how well the tattoos that Annie has compliments her body style and her personality. It was enjoyable capturing this digitally. Overall, an enjoyable shoot.

After action topics:
  • Bring a lighting assistant. In studio the movement of the equipment is often minimal. In the mixed lighting of the industrial space I did a fair amount of adjustments on the lighting location and power. It would have been nice to have someone help me.
  • Put the model’s escort to work. Annie brought a friend to the shoot which I encouraged. She was a trooper and held the reflector as needed.
  • Check the histogram regularly. Several of my earlier shots were too dark. They looked fine on the camera monitor, but in the computer they were probably 2 f/stops to dark. If I had watched the histogram regularly this probably would not have occurred.

Tattoo Style - Session Two

Busy Weekend - Ashley, Bill & Kristen

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